Here it is, the final part of my 2009 round-up, and a look at the best gigs throughout the year. There were many gigs deserving of praise, and many artists who narrowly missed the cut (see list at the bottom), however I have restricted the list to my favourite 10 gigs of the year. The top 10 is presented in chronological order, as unlike albums it’s hard to revisit the performance to choose the order, and they’re all winners!
The Acorn – Brixton Windmill (13th March)
One of the most fun small gigs of the year, my first proper glimpse (first headline show) into the brilliance of The Acorn as a live band. Whilst on record their music is beautiful and fairly relaxed on the whole, the live show brings a lot more energy. This gig was small, sweaty, and from what I remember the band played a nice long set. I think it was their first London headlining gig, a warm up for their Elbow support slot at Wembley Arena the following night, which brings me nicely to gig number 2…
Elbow – Wembley Arena (14th March)
I was initially sceptical about seeing Elbow in such a large venue, so I bought tickets to see them in Brighton a fortnight before instead. Based on the quality of that, I decided Wembley was worth a shot, especially with another chance to see The Acorn. The band, especially Guy Garvey, made it somehow feel like an intimate show, however it also delivered on the big scale too, with a large screen providing fantastic visuals throughout the show. For the first time, I left an arena gig thinking I’d quite like to see them play another gig of that size, and no doubt they will due to their massive success this year. A bonus came in the form of a guest appearance from Richard Hawley, for ‘The Fix’.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show – Cardiff International Arena (17th April)
Including a tribute band in my favourite gigs of the year may seem like an odd choice, but with a tribute to one of my favourite bands performed to such high standard it was hard not to include. This year the world famous Pink Floyd tribute band took on the might of ‘The Wall’, one of the Floyd’s most notorious releases. I’ve always enjoyed the album, but this show really opened my eyes to how superb it really is, with the usual video projections of the album’s iconic imagery, and a variety of stage props & costumes adding to the performance. I saw the same show a few weeks later at a half full Wembley Arena, but it lost the impact of seeing the show for the first time. With any luck the rumours of Roger Waters performing the album live this year will be true – after all it was his baby and I would expect a passionate performance, and some very high production values, but until that happens I have the fond memories of the Aussies’ performance.
The Mars Volta – ICA (18th June)
To promote the release of their new album ‘Octahedron’, The Mars Volta played an intimate gig at London’s ICA. I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket, and loved the experience of getting to see them play close up, especially Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s amazing guitar playing. In addition to it being a great venue to see them, the band had really refined their set, moving from 3 hours+ with half hour long jams and solos which could get quite boring, to a ‘short’ set of under 2 hours, and a real focus on playing the songs, with lots of the shorter tracks getting an airing. The new album tracks also sounded fantastic live.
I Am Kloot – The Relentless Garage (26th September)
And so we skip to after the festival season. As I mentioned in my recent review of John Bramwell’s solo gig, I Am Kloot are a band that I could never tire of seeing live. This gig was a standout of their shows I’ve seen this year, full of energy, great crowd interaction, and a suitably great setlist spanning all albums, as well as a bunch of promising sounding new tracks from their forthcoming album. It was also the first time they’ve played as a 3-piece for a while, dropping the two additional musicians that they have so often used, which is my preferred band setup – the 3 are more than capable of delivering the goods without additional help.
The Low Anthem – Hoxton Hall (27th September)
Of all the Low Anthem performances I saw this year, their Hoxton Hall show was by far the standout show. A beautiful and intimate venue (with seats near the front!), combined with some treats for this gig only made it very special. The show opened with ‘support band’ Snakewagon, a band made up of the members of the Low Anthem, and their friends & crew, all in disguise, posing as a real band. The main performance then featured help from a few of their friends on several tracks, as well as a number of covers not usually performed.
Nick Cave – Palace Theatre (25th October)
After becoming fairly obsessed with Mr Cave after a stunning Glastonbury performance, and enjoying his new novel ‘The Death Of Bunny Munro’, I jumped at the chance of seeing him play an intimate theatre show, including book readings. Nick was accompanied by Bad Seeds members Warren Ellis and Martyn P Casey, and performed some wonderful stripped down versions of songs from across his back catalogue, which introduced me to a lot more of his material. The night also involved sporadic Q&A from the audience, although few answered sensible enough questions to warrant a serious answer from Nick.
Revere – The Flowerpot (14th November)
2009 was a great year for Revere, gathering more awareness and critical acclaim in the build up to releasing their debut album, expected around April. It was also a year of fantastic gigs, making it difficult to choose just one for this list. My first instinct was to go for their show at Shunt, a wonderfully strange venue in the tunnels beneath London Bridge station, a fantastic performance that really benefited from the surroundings. In the end though, I went for their recent Flowerpot show. I’ve already reviewed it, so will avoid repeating myself too much, but this gig was really special as it was their longest performance showcasing much of the upcoming album, and was a really stunning performance to an appreciative crowd.
The Decemberists – The Coronet (19th November)
As mentioned in my review at the time, and since in my albums of the year post, the combination of a fantastic album in ‘The Hazards Of Love’, and a stunning live performance of the entire album, have been one of my highlights of the year. In fact I’d probably say this was my favourite gig of the year. As well as the album being perfomed in the first half, the second half featured a bunch of great songs from their back catalogue, and the crowd enjoyment and participation only made things better.
David Ford’s Milk & Cookies 9 – Bush Hall (18th December)
I sadly didn’t get around to reviewing this show in the end, but it was a great fun way to end the year. Each December, Eastbourne based singer David Ford puts on one or more gigs for charity, and imaginatively creates a lot of fun ways to raise money, including auctions to play with him on stage, and money-based votes for cover songs for him to play. There’s also the sale of milk & cookies, as referenced in the title. This year’s show was no different, with a great mix of cover versions (some selected at random from a song book on the night – no rehearsal!) including the beautiful ‘God Is In The House’ by Nick Cave, and a banjo/washboard/acoustic guitar version of Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’. The gig also featured previews of tracks from David’s forthcoming album ‘Let The Hard Times Roll’, which sounds like it’s something to really look forward to.
The Best Of The Rest
Great gigs sadly missing out on the list included Secret Machines @ Islington Academy, Art Brut @ New Slang, Revere @ Shunt, Idlewild @ Dingwalls, Patrick Watson @ Union Chapel, Okkervil River @ Scala, Super Furry Animals @ The Forum, Duke Special @ National Theatre, Gabby Young @ Bush Hall, Broken Records @ Bush Hall, and The Leisure Society @ St Giles.